Who is the Cork fisherman that inspired Andrew Weatherall's tattoo? It's a question that came up for discussion around the death of the legendary English DJ/producer last year, and the issue has been given fresh impetus in the approach to his first anniversary following a call-out by Raidió na Gaeltachta broadcaster Cian Ó Cíobháin.
Weatherall - who passed away at the age of 56 on February 17, 2020, from a pulmonary embolism - had a tattoo on his arm with the slogan 'Fail we may, sail we must'. It was also the title of a track on the electronic music artist's 2010 solo album. In an interview with Dummy magazine, he spoke of first hearing the expression on a visit to Cork.
He recalled how his driver for the gig was a 21-year-old trawlerman, and as they exchanged tales about their respective professions, he asked the local lad if there were mornings that he felt like he couldn't be bothered going to work.
“And he said, 'Fail we may, sail we must'. Which led to me spending hundreds of pounds and a lot of pain having it tattooed up the sides of my arms,” Weatherall told Dummy. “I’ve got a pretty good work ethic and sometimes you have a heavy night and want to phone in poorly, but if this guy can captain a ship in a force 9 gale, I’m sure I can get up and spend two hours in a disco.”
Ó Cíobháin wants to hear more about the encounter, and in advance of an anniversary tribute show he's hosting on his Taobh Tuathail slot on Wednesday, he cast the net for anyone who might know identity of the fisherman. “I’m intrigued by how one seemingly throwaway remark has become so iconic. To all intents and purposes, it practically kickstarted a mini-cult,” tweeted the Kerry-born broadcaster.
Speculation has flowed in from various people involved in the music industry. Could it have been on the drive from the airport for his first appearance in Cork, at Sir Henry's nightclub in the mid-1990s? Or a later appearance at Liss Ard near Skibbereen in 1999? Or even his return to the city in 2009 for a set at the Spiegeltent for the Midsummer Festival?
Ó Cíobháin had known Weatherall through the years, as the Windsor-born electronic music legend built his reputation through work with the likes of Primal Scream, New Order and Björk.
“Not only was he a brilliant DJ and producer, he was someone we also counted on to convey to those that didn’t quite 'get' our passion about the music that we loved,” wrote Ó Cíobháin in a piece for the RTÉ website. “He could articulate the cultural importance of dancing till dawn like no other. He was our very own acid house poet laureate.”
Despite a flurry of social media posts by many involved in the Rebel County's music scene, Ó Cíobháin has yet to get a proper bite in his attempts to find the mystery fisherman. He's even speculated that this might end up being the one that got away.
- An Taobh Tuathail on RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta presents a tribute to Andrew Weatherall on Wednesday, February 17, at 10pm